Archives for February 2013

Thursday Ten: I AM SO GLAD IT IS ALMOST MARCH edition

1. February. Why you gotta be like that? For the shortest month, it sure does feel like the longest month and you know, I am so so so ready to see it go. It’s not even that it’s been particularly awful (though, you know, it’s February and so it hasn’t been super great either – effing snow), but… dang. Every year feels like February is ten years long. Hello, March. I’m ready for you.

2. Followed Breaking Bad with Netflix’s House of Cards. Finished Season 1 of HOC, and now….White Collar. I haven’t watched as much television as I thought – so many shows to choose from. Watched the Pilot of White Collar the other night. Enjoyed it. We’ll see how long it lasts. (And I’m still muddling through Weeds. I had to stop watching because I got tired of Nancy.)

3. Spent a good chunk of time yesterday dealing with QR codes and I have to say… I’ve never actually used one. In fact, when the girls and I were at dinner last night, I purposely avoided something with a QR code on it. Does anyone actually use them?

4. Completely humiliated by my chicken fiasco, I feel like I should mention that the carne asada tacos I made last weekend were completely amazing. And the margaritas were face-numbing good.
margaritas and carne asada tacos

5. So, I watched most of the Oscars the other day and I agree with most of the criticism of Seth MacFarlane. But mostly – I had no idea who he was before Sunday. Annnnnd, uh… I don’t feel like I was missing much. (Also? Jennifer Lawrence is adorable but I’m tired of seeing her face everywhere. It’s like when you hear a song that you like and then the radio plays it OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER and finally you’re like, “STFU with that song already! That’s enough!” Yeah. That.)

6. Spent a good chunk of Sunday watching HGTV. “Love It or List It” is clearly scripted (apparently that’s a complaint people have about the show – that it’s scripted… well, duh. OBVIOUSLY it’s scripted) but, kind of amusing. And then I watched some show about Americans living abroad and now I really want to go to Australia and Amsterdam and probably several other places that start with A.

7. I’m in the process of un-crate training my crate trained dog. Not for all the time – the thought of leaving him uncrated during the work day, for example, makes me fear for the life of my furniture – however, at night time, I don’t want to crate him. Turns out, if I actually pick up any clutter, there’s nothing for him to get into. Win-win – my house is clean and he gets to sleep comfortably.

8. I’m so over the snow. The kids are either out of snow days are damn near out of snow days. I can’t remember that EVER happening before since either of my kiddos have been in school. SO over the snow and paying for snow day daycare.

9. There are a lot of posts brewing in my head that someday I may find the time to write and publish. I’ll work on it. I hear things and think, WELL, I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY ABOUT THAT (Marissa Mayer, I’m lookin’ at you. With a scowl, you big ninny) – and then? I don’t write anything. I will soon.

10. In the spirit of the awesome girl power vibe I have going on in my house lately – I have to say that I’m pretty proud of myself that my drive way was the first shoveled after this gruesome dumping of snow recently. Not only that, but this mom with a shovel was out there before any of those men with snowblowers who live around me. And if THAT wasn’t enough girl power… The only person who offered to help (not that I needed any! *flex*) was the thirteen year old girl who lives next door! I don’t need or expect help – that’s not it at all (frankly, I’m enjoying the process of shoveling far more than I thought I would. Who knew?) – but it does surprise me that people don’t offer to help – except the neighbor kid. Girls just get things done.
grab a shovel

Kitchen Through The Lens: Roast Chicken

lemon and rosemary

I sure do love a roast chicken. I have read how remarkably easy it is to make one and yet had never made one. It seemed a no brainer for my kitchen project – not only could I feed my face some delicious food, but since I was guaranteed to have leftovers, I could extend the number of meals out of one chicken. One whole roasting chicken was to become a dinner of roast chicken, Hasselback potatoes, and a lovely red lettuce salad. And then the chicken was to become chicken enchiladas. And maybe chicken soup. Possibly toppings for salads.

The point is, I had big plans for this chicken.

Also? I had company for dinner and I kinda wanted to make this impressive and delicious meal. I’ve always been the baker, and not a cook.

So I started with a recipe for herb roast chicken from Cooking Light magazine.

Salt, pepper and lemon juice went inside the chicken. I improvised and added a few cloves of garlic (yummmmmmy). The top of the chicken was smeared with a rosemary, thyme, shallot and butter mixture.

thyme-y and rosemary-y and butter-y and salmonella-y

Raw chicken? Abso-freaking-lutely disgusting.

But ooh, this smelled so good.

dear chicken i am so sorry i violated you by shoving a lemon in your nethers

And then I shoved the two lemon halves in the chicken’s “body cavity” and felt I owed the chicken an apology.


I guess I’ll mention right about now that I didn’t actually have a roasting pan. No problem, I thought, I’ll just use this glass 9×13 baking dish! The chicken was certainly small enough, the pan was certainly big enough.

This is the part that gets a little fuzzy.

Fuzzy because this is where I messed up.

The chicken was in the oven, I’m reading over the recipe and I realize I forgot to throw the water in the bottom of the pan like the directions said.

Knowing that the temperature difference between hot and cold and glass dishes is a bad thing, I used hot water.

Opened the oven, poured the water in.


walter white chicken

In retrospect, given that I wasn’t using a roasting pan and the chicken wasn’t on a rack and blah-blah-blah, I could have probably skipped that water step.


So, uh, as you can see. That was about the end of the chicken.

It brought up a whole new series of lessons in this cooking project though –

1. Learn to roll with the punches.
I have had some fun successes with this project. I have had some delicious food and some amazing beverages. I have had a ridiculous amount of fun while trying to make things I’ve never made before. NOT every project is gonna be a success.

Admittedly? I didn’t roll with the punches well here. I berated myself a whole lot, I kinda beat myself up about it, I was really so so very disappointed in myself. Here I am, trying to impress, trying to make an exceptional meal… and I blow up a baking dish and cover my kitchen with glass shards. Um. Yeah. Hi, I’m Sarah. I’m kinda new to this kitchen thing. And who’s to say – the next time I mess up (and surely I’ll mess up again), I may not do any better at letting it not get to me. But… I realize I need to. It wasn’t the end of the world.

2. Sure it’s important to have good cooking gear and use amazing ingredients, but choosing the right dining companions matters just as much.
Anyone else could have mocked me or ridiculed me for this fiasco. Not just anyone would have dubbed this mess Walter White Chicken, been glad I wasn’t hurt by glass, and taken me out for beer and nachos before returning back to my house where he helped me sweep out the glass and scrub the butter from the bottom of my oven and its racks. But despite my inability to cook a chicken (yet!), I had great company in the kitchen.

The beer was great, the nachos were amazing, and my face hurt from smiling (despite the fact that not long before that, my feet were tiptoeing around broken pieces of a blue glass dish).

I think walter white's blue glass is slightly more profitable than mine

Today, I bought a new 9″ x 13″ pan.

I also bought a roasting pan.

I don’t know if I can cross roast chicken off my list yet, but before I exploded everything, it  was smelling really good and so I think I’m heading in the right direction with the recipe. I’m gonna call that my trial run. I will try again. Soon.

Thursday Ten: And So It Goes edition

1. Just when I had been panicked about the fact that I only had a little over a week left of full time work, it was extended another month. While I hesitate to write too much about my job situation in my blog – I have been (understandably, I think) stressed about the thought of reducing my hours at work (and the corresponding paycheck). Another month for now is a huge relief.

2. I love rooms that have lots of windows and are full of lovely beautiful natural light. I also love bright colors. I don’t know how many times I took this shot because I have a tendency to tilt slightly a few degrees when I shoot, but… I like how it came out.
169 | 365

3. I just spent ten minutes watching YouTube videos of people covering Anna Kendricks from Pitch Perfect doing “Cups” because I was going to embed the song because even though I’ve never seen the movie, I’m somewhat intrigued by the whole cup thing. (Note: there are a lot of people sitting at home, playing with cups and uploading videos to YouTube.)

4. I’ve started reading again. I’m turning off my laptop earlier in the evenings and falling asleep with books again instead of with Netflix. Means I may never find out what happens next on Weeds, but hey, I’m using my library card again. I’ve missed reading.

5. When I picked The Princess up from gymnastics last night, the owner of the gym made a point to tell me how well she thought my daughter was progressing with her double back handspring. She had The Princess show me before we left for the evening – and my gosh! She was right. It’s amazing, even just in the past few months how far she’s come. I find that so exciting to see her improve by so much.

6. Things you never think of needing until you need them: a meat thermometer and a roasting pan.

7. Thing I’ve thought all too often this week: “I wish it was someone’s birthday. I’d really like a cookie!” (And then the girls came home from their dad’s and made me cookies, only I didn’t have enough all purpose flour so The Princess used wheat and… I’m not a fan of the wheat cookie. Apparently.)

8. When I started my Kitchen Through The Lens project, I really really despised cooking. As I type this, I’m researching two different kinds of recipes for the next two things I plan to cook and I’m thinking, “Yeah. I can do this. This will be good.”  The one thing I’ve learned to consider when selecting recipes is how freezeable leftovers might be. I hate throwing away food and since I don’t love leftovers, I need to either freeze it or make less. Somehow.

9. The thing about eating healthy all day is the urge to binge on graham crackers at 11 p.m.

10. After two uses, my KitchenAid food processor completely stopped working. I finally emailed them yesterday in hopes that they do something to remedy the situation. I LOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE my KitchenAid stand mixer. I am not even exaggerating when I say what a tremendous difference that mixer makes to the cooking and baking experience, so… the fact that after two uses, the food processor went still and no longer works? It’s disappointing. I’m hoping they’ll make it right though, because I have a list of things to make and improving my knife skills was not a goal of this project.

Kitchen Through the Lens: Empanadas

The biggest enemy of this project is not time – though I don’t have a whole lot of that – but winter. Winter’s early darkness coupled with my unflattering environmentally friendly lightbulbs makes photographing food a pain in the booty if I decide to cook once I get home from work.

Today I tried to beat the sunset.

No go.

bless the kitchenaid

In my efforts to beat the darkness, I picked what could very well have been the worst recipe for empanada dough. Most of the recipes were more pastry based, calling for cold cold butter and rolling the whole mess out and letting it chill in the fridge an hour.


So I chose a recipe from which frankly was too sweet (1/3 cup sugar? Gross), too thick, and… not quite right.


Not feeling so optimistic about this dough

Also? A pain to roll out.

I want a pastry dough squisher

I should have used a bigger glass.

172 | 365

Having seen a recipe in O Magazine for empanadas, I was hell bent on a rotisserie chicken and poblano pepper variation. Poblanos look a bit like infinities when you slice ’em. Pretty.

I chopped up some leftover rotisserie chicken, mixed it with diced poblanos and squished it in the middle of the dough, and crimped it shut with a fork.

portrait of a badly lit empanada

Badly lit empanadas are badly lit.

They actually had real potential…with a different dough.

Impatience. It’ll get you ever time.

I haven’t declared the empanada a complete failure but… that dough? Oh. Ew. Gross. NEVER. AGAIN.

Thursday Ten: Happy Eat Lots of Candy Day edition

1. Happy Valentines Day, y’all. Whether or not it’s a big deal for you, I’m glad you’re here. Have a conversation heart. You can have all the yellow ones. They taste like banana and I don’t want ’em. This isn’t my favorite “holiday” (I use the term loosely) so, if you dig it, enjoy, if you don’t… HAPPY THURSDAY!
i keep my heart in my desk drawer

2.So Tuesday night was both the State of the Union and the Michigan/Michigan State bball game. That’s all code for: STAY AWAY FROM SOCIAL MEDIA. I mostly did. It’s funny how rabid people get about that stuff – and by funny, I mean that there’s a great deal of people who would benefit from learning some meditative breathing techniques.

3. Guess who got a paczki for Fat Tuesday and then…didn’t eat it? This girl. Good news? No paczki guilt. Bad news? Been craving sweets ever since.

4. I can’t say this enough times – I really really despise text shorthand. Sure, I’ll use the acronyms. I’m not above a little “LOL” or somethin’, but there’s nothing like seeing U, UR, B, R blink across my screen as if those were words. It annoys me. For being extremely comfortable with text and internet hooey, those stupid abbreviations make texts a pain in the butt to read. And I’ll judge.

5. House of Cards on Netflix – anyone else watching? What do you think so far?

6. My grandpa’s doctors have ruled out surgery as an option for him following his heart catheterization the other day. Now they’ve scheduled two more CT scans to determine whether the next steps is a stent or medication. I am stressed and unhappy about this. He’s old and his body is old and he’s fine with whatever the doctor’s suggest, and I have to be fine with it too… It’s just not easy for me.

7. I see a lot of crazy crap on Facebook (some people will “like” ANYTHING), but one of the things I had seen a few times lately had to do with drinking half a lemon squeezed into a cup of hot water at the beginning and end of the day. Now, I rarely do it twice a day, but, I have to say, it’s kinda nice to start my day with it. And a mug of hot lemon water on my drive to work kinda kicks the desire to stop at Starbucks. Lemons are cheaper than Starbucks. Win. I guess.

8. I plan to wipe out any health benefits of water and lemon by eating a bag of conversation heart candy. Except the yellow ones. Everyone knows all the calories are in the yellow ones.

9. For those of you curious, I turned my thermostat down and… my bill went up. Granted, temperatures dropped a lot as well, but sheesh. STUPID WINTER.

10. I haven’t forgotten my Kitchen through the Lens project – in fact, I still sure do love it. But, I haven’t picked a recipe lately. I have a lot of cool things left to make – and I will – but haven’t yet. Something to come soon, I promise.

Sometimes it’s a little hard to believe

There’s a moment in each day where pure panic hits me – usually it’s when I’m driving and usually it’s some innocuous thing that sets me off. The brain starts churning and I start thinking of all the possible worst case scenarios and then before I know it, my eyes are puddling up with big stupid tears and I am so grateful there’s no one around to see me, just in case that tear makes its way down my face.

Because I’m scared.

I have maybe three more weeks of full time work and I cannot find anything to help fill those spaces to supplement the income for the hours I won’t be working, despite the millions (or so it seems) of resumes I have sent out.

So, I struggle with the part where I have to believe that good things will come my way and that I’m doing my best and that I’ll get through it. I struggle and I borrow faith and I do what I can do and I keep putting one foot in front of the other and I hope against what feels like unbeatable odds (I may be a bit melodramatic these days) that somehow things will work out, that something will come along, that my worry and anxiety over this mess was all for naught.

I’m trying so hard to believe it. To believe in myself. To stop with all the worry and just ride it out.

But it’s tough, and it’s getting tougher as the weeks zip fast.

So cross your fingers for me and throw magic fairy dust my way. And remind me to catch my breath and breath and to keep putting one foot in front of the other and to keep pushing against the fear, and keep trying – even when it feels hopeless – to get things done.

Thursday Ten: Taking a Page from Ferris Bueller edition

1. “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” With that in mind, I’ve started (and we’ll see if I stick to it) a five moment journal. Each day, I jot down five things that have happened during the day – good things, bad things, whatever things. In the midst of stress, I’m just kinda wishing days away and that’s probably not the best approach to dealing with things.

2. Yesterday, the sun was shining for the first time in what seems like it’s been far too long of a time. I hate winter. I hate February.

3. I’ve taken to using the LoseIt app on my iPhone again in an attempt to lose a few stress related pounds. I ate 108 calories worth of saltine crackers yesterday. I hate knowing that.

4. I made ten tons of pasta sauce and have a lot left over. What’s amazing is that the leftovers have been better than the original meal. Which is good because I’ll have a lot left over for a very long time.

5. Sometimes I try to find peace.
158 | 365

Sometimes it doesn’t work.
159 | 365

6. Sometimes when I drive to work, the light is just so and I am inspired to stop and take photographs of everything. Unfortunately, just being inspired doesn’t mean that I actually have the time to stop. Or that I can stop without getting hit by other cars. I see these things and I know it would make an excellent photograph and then… I have to drive by. I hate that.

7. THIS SPACE FOR RENT! Maybe? Maybe not? I don’t know. Just a few weeks until my job goes to part time and as you can imagine, there’s a stressy feeling of oh my god what am I going to do about it all. Wanna rent my blog? Think of it like a little itty bitty teeny tiny billboard. Also, I have a healthy kidney you can probably buy.

8. I just received my invitation to my niece’s first birthday party. Nearly one year old already. HOW did this year go by so quickly?

9. To the people who try to use LinkedIn to sell me stuff: Don’t. To the people who try to use Facebook to sell me stuff: Don’t. If you don’t know me, don’t connect with me so you can sell me stuff. (You get an occasional free pass if we actually know each other. Strangers trying to connect in order to spam me with sales hooey? Suuuuuuuuuch BS).

10. I haven’t been to actual book club in months sooooo… The Princess and I are doing a book club again. I have to admit that the kid lit is kind of refreshing. I love being able to zip through a read – I don’t read nearly enough these days and so being able to make some progress in a book is nice. Maybe it’ll kick me into gear of actually reading again.

Books for Valentines Day Even If You Don’t Actually LIKE Valentines Day

I’m sure you guys know this by now…

I have mixed feelings on Valetines Day. I’m a fan of Hallmark, not a fan of Hallmark holidays. Why wait for a holiday to say you care?

Having said that

My kids? They love it. A lot.

And they really loved this batch of books that we got for Valentines Day. Admittedly, even I got a little squooshy about one of ’em.

Awesome Book of Love!

How much do I love Dallas Clayton? Kind of a really lot. I truly enjoyed “An Awesome Book” and this one is pretty darn enjoyable too. With its quirky illustrations and its fun rhyming verse make this book truly enjoyable, whether you’re a kid or a kid’s mom or probably even if you’re a kid’s mom’s mom, you might dig this also. I like this because it’s not Valentines specific – you don’t need a special day to tell someone you care (okay, maybe you do, but some people don’t and they will be just as happy reading this book on a Tuesday in November as they are reading it on February 14). This book is a lovely little love story. And I’m not sure I’m going to let the kids take it for their own shelf – I may just keep it on mine!

But you know that’s not all that this love is about
Sometimes it’s a whisper when you feel you could shout
Or just being around when others have gone
or about letting go when you want to hold on


Mia: The Sweetest Valentine
by Robin Farley

Pumpkin loves the Mia series of books perfect for ages 4 – 8 (she’s seven years old and difficulty wise, she can read books a bit tougher than this one, but she’s at the point where she can’t decide if she wants chapter books or the cool pictures – and that’s OKAY). A fun little story of Mia celebrating Valentines Day with her friends annnnnnd… accidentally eating the box of chocolates her dad had purchased for her mom. This cute (short!) story also comes with a page of stickers which, as you know, makes every book better. Too bad it didn’t come with a box of chocolates. (Free marketing idea!)

Splat the Cat: Funny Valentine

Another series that Pumpkin LOVES. This cute story with lift-the-flap surprises is fun for kiddos ages 4 to 8. A sweet fun story that your kids will love, particularly if they are already fans of the Splat the Cat series (like my kiddo is).


Though I received the books for review, the opinions, as always are solely my own. It takes more than review copies of books to sway my opinion (but you’re welcome to try). All children’s books received for review go through the paces with both me and my kiddos. If they don’t like them or if I don’t, that’s the end of it. Children’s literature is supposed to be fun and enjoyable, which is why at 36 years old, I still LOVE kids’ books.


Happy Valentines Day.

Happy Reading.

Children’s Books for Black History Month

Perhaps one of my favorite things about blogging is getting love from book publishers – occasionally I come home from work to find books in the mail and my kids and I rip open the packages and read ’em and decide which are the best of the bunch.

A few weeks ago, I received several books in honor of Black History Month – the kids and I did some reading and of the bunch, these are our favorites. These books are well written with great art and were extremely informative (actually, so informative that I learned a lot, which I love).

In the Land of Milk and Honey by Joyce Carol Thomas

This book was our favorite. Lyrical prose, gorgeous art. This book is a true story of the author’s trip from Oklahoma to California in the late 40s. A former California girl myself, I have to say I loved seeing my old home, even in illustrations.

At the welcome party
limber-legged dancers
shimmy in and out of each other’s arms
And ever-changing rhythms
call the feet to follow the beat
here in
this Land of Milk and Honey

I was drawn in by the words and Floyd Cooper’s illustrations create a vivid backdrop for this tale. If you close your eyes, you’re almost there on a train making your way through dusty states on a quest to reach a land where lemons grow as big as oranges.

Beautiful story.

I’ve Seen the Promised Land: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Written by Walter Dean Myers, Illustrated by Leonard Jenkins

My public school education not lacking so much that I didn’t know the story of Martin Luther King Jr., but this goes beyond “I Have a Dream” and details the life of MLK before his famous speech. This book is straight-forward and it’s narrative isn’t flowery, pretty or lovely. It’s history and it’s pretty straight up. This might be too “old” for Pumpkin, but The Princess sat and read it cover to cover.

I like the simplicity and matter-of-fact way it’s written.

What I really love though are Leonard Jenkins’s paintings. The illustrations in this book are so compelling and they really bring everything together.

Nelson Mandela
Words and Paintings by Kadir Nelson

Can I just admit something really quickly? History wasn’t my best subject in school. I once cried my way from a B+ to an A- (it worked too. It shouldn’t have but it did), and so it is with embarrassment that I admit that I didn’t really know a whole lot about Nelson Mandela before reading this book.

And so my girls and I learned together while reading this book.

When Nelson Mandela was a child, his father died and he was sent to live with a powerful chief. He  left his mother and his family to live with this chief. He grew on to become a lawyer, defending the poor and powerless.He was ultimately arrested for fighting apartheid, met his wife and had children, while continuing to fight apartheid. He went into hiding to avoid the warrants out for his arrest but ultimately he was captured and spent over 27 years in prison.

This book takes a complicated story and makes it easy to understand and the illustrations are bold, genuine, and straightforward.

So check them out – they’re pretty awesome new additions to our home library. The books were sent to me for review, but as always, the opinions are mine alone (I received a few others, but… they didn’t pass muster and rather than say bad things about books I don’t dig, I’d rather focus on the ones we loved).

Stay tuned because some great Valentines books for kiddos are coming soon. My kids are really happy lately about this whole “mom’s a blogger” thing. Hey, me too.


Kitchen Through the Lens: Pasta Sauce

Every time I make pasta using sauce from a jar, I chastise myself. It can’t  be that difficult, I think. Plus, can you even pronounce half of the garbage that’s in here? (I’ve taken to buying organic sauce which, yeah, I CAN pronounce the ingredients, but…EVEN SO…)

Pasta sauce is one of those things.

There are very few jarred sauces I like and honestly, I can never remember which ones those are when I go to the store and then I end up buying some garbagey thing that tastes awful and then it just sits in my fridge until it’s so old that the sauce around the rim of the jar is so crusty that I couldn’t take the lid off if I tried.

ANYWAY. That is how pasta sauce ended up on my list (I think I actually wrote “marinara sauce” and I am sure there is some legit difference between marinara and just any old pasta sauce, but I don’t know that difference, and I know what I meant when I wrote the list).

No tears

This recipe was pretty darn easy.

(It was also pretty darn boring. Next time? Imma add better stuff)

In a sauce pan, heat up onions and olive oil and salt for about ten minutes (the recipe called for a LOT of olive oil – I reduced it by a lot. I didn’t see the need for so much oil and it seems to have come out okay anyway).

Nit picky tomatoes

Add two 28-oz cans of San Marzano tomatoes, pureed with their juices.

These are more expensive than just any other whole tomato. And they were in a different section. At my grocery store, there’s a TOMATO section and an AUTHENTIC ITALIAN tomato section. Sooooo… here’s some fancy pants tomatoes. I guess.

I love the smell of basil

Seven basil leaves.

Also: add more salt.

Bring to a bubble on high. Cover and let simmer for about 45 minutes.

I can pronounce all the ingredients in this sauce and it was mostly edible

In the end, though boring, it was still a win. It’s far too much for me and the girls – I’ve frozen half of the sauce and I’ve packaged up a few separate dishes of pasta and sauce to take to work for lunches this week (I’m going to be so sick of spaghetti). Next time, I’d maybe add more garlic. I keep thinking of elements of things I could add to make this tastier (mmmm pancetta…), but the fact is, I do dig its simplicity, and I do like that if I cut the olive oil down a liiiiiitttttttllllllleeeeee bit further, this is still a relatively healthy sauce and not bogged down by a bunch of junky (and delicious!) extras that make it less healthy.

Short story long, it was a win. The kids liked it. I’ll either halve the recipe next time or just be prepared to freeze in smaller quantities to have sauce on hand…pretty much until the end of time.